The University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) have created a $2 million seed fund that UW-Extension will administer to help commercialize technology and ideas developed at UW campuses statewide.
UW-Extension and its partners announced the Ideadvance Seed Fund today at a news conference in the State Capitol attended by Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and other state officials.
“Faculty, staff and students need access to this type of funding so that they can pursue their business dreams here in Wisconsin,” said Gov. Scott Walker. “This new partnership bridges the gap from an idea to the creation of a business and initial investment.”
While Ideadvance is the first gap fund in UW history, there are more than 60 similar university-focused funds at 40 educational institutions nationwide, according to a recent report from Innovosource.
“Our University of Wisconsin labs and classrooms generate ideas ripe for commercialization, so we’re pleased to partner with the state’s lead economic development agency to support entrepreneurs on our campuses throughout the state,” said UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Ray Cross, who begins his term as UW System president Feb. 15.
WEDC Secretary Reed Hall added, “This partnership has the potential to create new businesses, foster economic development, retain UW System graduates in the state and improve the quality of Wisconsin products and services.”
The Ideadvance Seed Fund provides up to $75,000 in two stages to support entrepreneurs as they evaluate product or service ideas, explore key markets, validate demand and develop strategies for investment sources. Unlike most early stage funding, the Ideadvance Seed Fund encourages ideas from all disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences and liberal arts.
Mark Lange, executive director of UW-Extension’s Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, said, “We will offer extensive idea exploration and customer validation, along with the mentorship of our experienced team and partners to help grant recipients pursue their ideas. In addition, we’ll collaborate with local organizations and tap into their resources for entrepreneurs.”
UW-Extension will accept applications in three rounds beginning in March, May and November 2014. Grants are available for part-time or full-time staff, faculty and students who are part of the UW System. Also eligible are applicants and young companies with technologies affiliated with the WiSys Technology Foundation or UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation. Those affiliated with UW-Madison are not eligible to be primary clients but may contribute to projects with eligible applicants from other Wisconsin universities and colleges.
The Ideadvance Seed Fund is a recipient of a $1 million UW System Economic Development Incentive Grant and $1 million from WEDC’s Capital Catalyst program.